Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries
in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication

Empowering women in small-scale fisheries for sustainable food systems

In small-scale fisheries,women account for 40% of those employed along the value chain and engaged in subsistence activities. But women’s work is often invisible, informal and underrecognized, and women do not take part in decisions that shape their situation or impact the value chains in which they engage for livelihoods, food security and nutrition.

Many women also have limited access to finance, to technology that could make their work more efficient, and to services such as education. As a result, they may have little choice but to accept unfavourable contracts, or unfair conditions and practices in fish sales and markets (read more about the need for gender equality in small-scale fisheries here).

A majority of women in fisheries are involved in processing and marketing fish, referred to as post-harvest activities. The FAO-Norad project “Empowering women in small-scale fisheries for sustainable food systems” was therefore focused on empowering women in the post-harvest sector.

The Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) provided the project with funding in 2020 – 2021, with continued support under the FMM Sub-Programme for 2021-2023. The project focused on implementing the recommendations of the SSF Guidelines. It is also an important step on the way towards reaching the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The SSF Guidelines, in chapters 7 and 8, on Value chains, post-harvest and trade and on Gender equality, defends the recognition and inclusion of the role women play in small-scale fisheries, especially in the post-harvest sector aiming to avoid food loss and waste.

8.4 All parties should encourage the development of better technologies of importance and appropriate to women’s work in small-scale fisheries".
SSF Guidelines

When women are empowered and have opportunities to earn and control income, their spending is more likely to benefit the household’s nutrition, health and education. When considering the “food systems” framework, one looks at the production, processing, distribution, marketing and consumption of food, as well as at the socioeconomic and environmental drivers and feedbacks from food system activities, including social and environmental welfare.

Build capacity and partnerships

The project helped individuals and SSF organizations, and cooperatives build and improve skills and capacity in their work, with a particular focus on meeting women’s needs. The project also raised awareness about how important it is to eat fish for a nutritious and balanced diet, especially for children’s physical and cognitive development. In some of the target countries, this translated into strengthening people’s capacity to process safe fish products that can then be marketed or served in their communities.

The promotion of partnerships between public and private actors to develop suitable equipment and infrastructure for handling, distributing, and trading fish has been an important activity of this project, which was accompanied by training on the use, management and maintenance of equipment, to ensure sustainable outcomes for the project and the continued FMM Sub-Programme.

7.4 States and development partners should recognize the traditional forms of associations of fishers and fish workers and promote their adequate organizational and capacity development in all stages of the value chain in order to enhance their income and livelihood security in accordance with national legislation”.
SSF Guidelines.

Gather knowledge and learnings in one place

The project gathered valuable knowledge and data on how small-scale fisheries contribute to food security and nutrition in the five project countries. Similarly, the project mapped where SSF women’s groups work, in both geographic terms as well as mapping their roles and positions in fish value chains. The project utilized this information, in combination with the gender transformative approach and subsequent gender action plans, to identify entry points for meeting women’s needs and gained better understanding of underlying norms and drivers. For instance, women can be empowered through boosting their skills in decision-making and leadership, or through joining or establishing organisations, networks and platforms relevant to their needs and their work, however women’s participation is not enough – they also need to feel that their voices are heard.

7.5 All parties should avoid post-harvest losses and waste and seek ways to create value addition, building also on existing traditional and local cost-efficient technologies, local innovations and culturally appropriate technology transfers.”
SSF Guidelines.

Many donors have tried to improve infrastructure and technologies in the post-harvest sector in the past, but they have not always been successful. This project learned from these experiences and developed guidance on good practices, considering infrastructure and technology that was sustained, often even after funds were no longer available, which will now be used in the new FMM sub-programme.

Another step forward

The FAO-Norad project has recently expanded geographically under a new sub-programme of the FAO Flexible Multi-Partner Mechanism (FMM) entitled Implementing the Small-Scale Fisheries Guidelines for gender equitable and climate resilient food systems and livelihoods, activities will now include Madagascar, Namibia, the Philippines, and Indonesia.